A few days ago, I had an email exchange with a DRaysBay blogger about the possibility of the Pirates trading for David Price. Much of that conversation was published today. It's an odd conversation, because the blogger just kept asking me, "Would you trade this package of prospects for Price?" No, if it were me making the decision, I wouldn't trade Jameson Taillon and Gregory Polanco for Price. "Okay, how about this package of prospects for Price?" Still no.
This led to a bunch of concern-trolling in the comment thread about how vulnerable the Pirates' rotation is, as if the one possible solution to that problem is trading your entire farm system to get one guy for two years. I get it -- Price is awesome, and if you put the guy in the National League and PNC Park, he might win a Cy Young award. But it would be really tough for the Pirates to trade their top two prospects, or something like four of their top seven, for someone who will only be around for two years, who isn't that cheap (he'll likely make something like $13 million in 2014 and $17 million in 2015), and who's a pitcher.
And yes, the Pirates' rotation is vulnerable. But when you're the Pirates and you don't have unlimited resources, you've got to take calculated risks. The Pirates allowed fewer runs than any team in baseball last year except the Braves. Next year, if A.J. Burnett comes back, they'll have virtually everyone who helped out last year, plus Jameson Taillon and, hopefully, Wandy Rodriguez. Now, maybe Rodriguez doesn't contribute, and maybe Burnett remembers that he's really old, and maybe Francisco Liriano has a hankering for one of those five-plus ERAs of yore, and ... I can't remember what bad things are supposed to happen to Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton, but those bad things, whatever they are, could happen too. But that's a risk the Bucs may just have to live with. The Pirates mostly have to sink or swim with the guys they have, because 1) the guys they have appear to be pretty good and 2) their resources are finite.
Which of these scenarios are more likely to ruin the Pirates' 2014 season: ALL THE BAD THINGS happening to the Pirates rotation, or the Pirates simply not hitting much? I would argue it's pretty clearly the latter, especially since defense and shifting are such a big part of the Pirates' run-prevention strategy, and that's unlikely to change. The Pirates have a much bigger hole at first base than they have anywhere in their rotation. There's also room to improve at right field, where the Pirates posted the third-lowest OPS in baseball last year. So if the Pirates want to make a splash this offseason, I'd prefer they make a deal for someone who can occupy a corner spot.
And if they're going to give up Taillon or Polanco in a trade, I'd rather it be for someone who's going to be around for more than two years. The Rays themselves would never in a million years trade their two top-25 prospects for a guy who will only be around for two years, and not only because the Rays are frugal, but because prospects and team control are crucial resources. I'm not at all opposed to the Pirates trading prospects this offseason. In fact, I think the time is right for that. But there's a right way to do things, and trading an entire farm system for David Price, great as he might be, isn't it.